The protest was the first of several in Salt Lake City focused on the health and climate impacts of dirty fuels like coal and oil in the lead up to climate activist Tim DeChristopher’s much anticipated trial that was scheduled for Monday, February 28.
“From cradle to grave, coal is dirty, dangerous and outdated. It is clear that clean energy technologies—ones that don’t spew life-threatening pollution into our air and water—are the way to a prosperous, secure energy future,” said Ashley Anderson of Peaceful Uprising, a Salt Lake City-based climate justice organization.
Just last week it was revealed that Ambre Energy planned to build the Longview export terminal with the capacity to annually ship up to 60 million short tons of western U.S. coal, even as it told state and local government officials that it would build a facility one-twelfth that size. Protesters are demanding that Ambre, the lead developer of coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest, quit coal and move into clean energy.
“Plain and simple, coal export terminals continue the mining and burning of coal at a time when phasing out coal is essential to our health,” said Scott Parkin of the Rainforest Action Network, which helped coordinate today’s rally. “With Ambre Energy’s coal export terminals, the U.S. is exporting our problems, our pollution, instead of solving them with clean energy advancements.”
As the U.S. begins to shift away from carbon-emitting, coal-fired power plants, coal producers are gearing up to ship more of the fuel overseas. Ambre Energy is leading the push for west coast export terminals that would open the floodgates for a new coal market in Asia. Peabody, the No. 1 coal producer in the U.S., has said it will release plans for its own west coast port by the end of this quarter. Advocates for clean energy, the environment, and public health and safety have coalesced to oppose Ambre. If they succeed in stalling Ambre’s Longview terminal it would have a ripple effect across the sector, challenging the plan to develop coal export capacity along the coast.
Several different organizations participated in the rally, including the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers: “We are concerned about the exporting of coal to oversee markets in that there are no environmental standards once the coal leaves our borders,” said Jim Cooksey, a representative of the union. “The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers understands the issue of climate change and is looking to secure alliances with other labor and environmental organizations to find solutions that protect workers and the environment.”
U.S. coal exports to China and India are expected to increase to 86.5 million tons, up from 79.5 million tons in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Opposition to coal continues to grow across the country because of its devastating impact on health and climate. Nationwide, smokestack pollution from coal-fired power plants kills more than 13,000 people per year according to the Clean Air Task Force — a rate of one person every forty minutes. Burning coal is also the nation’s top source of air pollution and toxic mercury, and it is responsible for a third of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions — nearly 2 billion tons per year. It is also the largest single source of global warming pollution in America.
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